First NPR recommended Maria Semple’s new book Where’d You Go, Bernadette?, which sounds hilarious. Then a local library by my sister’s place is having a sale and I score her first book This One Is Mine for $1! So I’m thinking this was meant to be. I’m thinking this book must rock, and I can’t believe I never heard of it – basically getting way too excited about a book I now nothing about because I’m outside and feeling good.
I read the first few chapters in a small gazebo at a park by a lake. It’s super hot, but I’m drinking water in the shade and too stir crazy to go inside just yet. Straight away I know I’m not going to like a single character, but that’s not always a bad thing. At this point the book can go either way. Semple is an experienced comedy writer so I’m still hoping for the humor to shine through and make these train wrecks fun to be around.
Violet Parry lives in the Hollywood Hills with her music tycoon husband, David. She’s a former T.V. writer turned bored housewife and new mom with rich people problems. After a tiff with David, Violet meets a musician who makes her tingle. That feeling goes right to her blood stream and she cannot let it go. Like an addict, she throws herself into the lane of self destruction.
Violet’s sister-in-law, Sally, is equally flawed in totally different ways. Sally’s a broken dancer turned yoga instructor who, like Violet, believes she can fix every problem in her life with the right man. Both lie and connive to get what they want and justify it because their lives didn’t turn out the way they wanted them to.
When I watch movies, I put them to the 20 minute rule and turn them off without pause if the beginning is no good, but I can’t do that with books. Putting a book down mid-way leaves too many loose ends. Years later you vaguely recall a title like it’s unfinished business. So I didn’t put this down even though I really disliked it. To be fair to the book, I have to say that I read most of it on the floor with ice packs on my head. Either the heat or the book defeated me.
The one line that did stick out was something about how troubled people are trouble – people who have a lot of problems are the problem. When I read a line like that I can’t help but take it personally: Is this book judging me? Then I thought about it like a normal person. Every character is overflowing with problems of their own creation. Some of them change a little, but I didn’t care and I’m not sure if we were supposed to or not. The setups all paid off like a tidy sitcom, but it’s one I wouldn’t watch again.
Still, Where’d You Go, Bernadette? sounds clever. I’ll save it for winter.